At least twice a year I (Austin Smith) see autonomous vehicles in Phoenix USA. Like most others in Phoenix, I have now got used to them despite their current ‘doctor on call/mini van’ looks. Waymo, who own and operate the vehicles, has definitely not engaged any designers yet!
For the best part of 8 years they’ve had a driver accompanying the vehicles, but now they are completely driverless. Yes, they have been involved in one fatal accident, but given they have completed over 3,500,000 miles of testing, that is statistically a very impressive safety record.
In 2018 local residents in Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix, were given free taxi trips of their choice (with an accompanying Waymo employee sitting in the back, in case of breakdown). A lot of families took up the offer and the kids loved it.
A fleet of autonomous vehicles will become taxis in the city in the not too distant future and then the economics of owning/leasing a car start to change. On the basis that around 50% of the cost of the taxi fare covers the driver costs then taxi fares will significantly reduce.
If you could pick up a taxi in less than 5 minutes from ordering it and it was half the price you currently pay, you would have a pretty irresistible reason to ditch your city car.
From the feedback I receive the youngsters like the thought of autonomous cars and see it as a good way forward. However, the older you get there is more reticence and I find very few people over 60 embrace this likely change. They wish to be in control.
These over 60’s that have newish cars do, however, like the emergency brake assist and the enhanced cruise control features on their cars, which are actually some of the mainstays of autonomous vehicles.
Great value and great for the environment
I can see foresee that, if you had a super Uber type network of autonomous cars charging 50% of its current price, it would quickly become a huge success. The dynamics of UK short trips would change and many would just turn to a supertaxi and get rid of their cars.
As all of the UK’s autonomous cars will be electric this translates into a huge win for city pollution.